You’ve probably heard from those who have been to Kauai that the island can never run out of things to offer. There are various crystal clear beaches to choose from, hike trails to conquer, and sceneries to remember by. You’d think Kauai’s only a good travel destination for the outdoorsy types, but wanderers who have an appreciation of arts and quiet time can find solace here too.
Down the south of the island, you’ll find Hanapepe, which is known as the arts and cultural hub of Kauai. List it down on your itinerary and read up if your idea of a perfect holiday is an immersion in centuries-old history paired with gastronomical adventures.
A Quick History of Hanapepe
Hanapepe is a small town located on Kauai’s South Shore which boasts various spots for shopping and immersion in Kauai’s arts and culture. The streets are lined with galleries, stores, and restaurants with something to delight curious adventurers.
In the earlier days, many enterprising Hawaiians grew banana, sugar cane, and taro in the fertile valley of Hanapepe. In addition to growing taro, the locals also cultivated salt in the valley’s saltwater ponds to trade with sailors. In fact, salt trading was the earliest entrepreneurial activity in the area. The right to harvest salt, handed down through families, continues today.
When Hurricane Iniki hit the place in 1992, it caused a decline in the town’s ventures and activities. However, historic buildings that were destroyed were rebuilt, giving way to the local eateries, art galleries, bookstores, and artisan shops that dot the colorful town that it is today.
Things Not to Miss in Hanapepe
Being a vibrant town nestled in the multicultural pot that is Kauai, you’ll find there are quite a few things to see and experience in Hanapepe. From man-made art to nature’s wonders, here are some things you can check out on a quick trip to this enchanting town.
1. Hanapepe Art Night
Friday nights are the best times to wander through the town of Hanapepe. Every Friday, all of the town’s galleries open and shops and restaurants go bustling for Hanapepe Art Night. The outdoor scene filled with artists, musicians, and vendors of all types makes for a wonderful night out.
Taking a walk down Hanapepe’s streets during Art Night could be the perfect activity for tourists looking for unique souvenirs to bring back home. Whatever you’re into, you’re sure to find something special with shops that sell handmade art and antiques found from all over Kauai.
Friday nights at Hanapepe also opens up a whole new world of flavors for visitors wanting to expand their palate. For quick and cheap eats, food trucks offer a wide variety of grub including some well-loved Hawaiian snacks. A good number of restaurants, on the other hand, offer lovely ambiance and great alfresco seating for some people watching.
2. Walk on the Swinging Bridge
This little bridge in Kauai’s ‘Biggest Little Town’, gets its name from its swinging nature. Unlike most swinging bridges in the world, this one is short in height and is safe for family and kids to cross. Kids will love the place as they can run over the grassy patches beside the river and play around.
The bridge serves as a pathway for residents and school-going children who live on the right side of the area. It’s a 300-year old bridge that’s still standing strong in a peaceful town surrounded by a valley. Although there is no problem enjoying your time on the bridge, it is advisable to cross it and head your way back with respect for the residents who use it every day.
3. Visit Salt Pond Beach
Salt Pond is named for the natural wetlands that Hawaiians use to produce salt used for cooking and medicinal purposes. Salt Pond’s salt beds are a natural wetland and while salt forms naturally here, the salt beds are quite man-made.
Salt Pond Beach Park lies adjacent to the only natural salt ponds on Kauai. It boasts an excellent beach that visitors coming with family can enjoy because natural fringing reefs help keep the water fairly calm. With serene waters and unobstructed views of the horizon, we say Salt Pond is one of the best places for sunset viewing in Kauai.
Tide pools on the east side of the beach are also a great place to discover friendly Hawaiian marine life. You’ll get the chance to meet gentle Hawaiian sea turtles and spot colorful fish in the waters. Groups can set out on the designated picnic area to enjoy a nice day out with no problems, as you will find restrooms, showers, and shade pavilions in the park.
4. Visit Manawaiopuna Falls
Manawaiopuna Falls, commonly called Jurassic Falls among visitors, is a privately owned waterfall in the island located in Hanapepe Valley. If you’re wondering where it got its name, you might be astounded to learn that it was the area used as the background for several scenes in the 1993 Steven Spielberg film Jurassic Park.
Because the falls can only be toured through a helicopter ride, a visit to the famed falls makes for a private experience. There’s no other way to step foot on the area within the falls, and only one helicopter with a handful of guests is allowed at a time.
A helicopter tour is about 75-80 minutes long and may include flying to other remote areas of Kauai, like the fluted peaks of the Na Pali Coast. But what really sets the journey apart is being able to walk along a path in the rainforest that hugs the bottom of Jurassic Falls.
On the ground, you will get the chance to learn about the history of the secluded waterfalls and understand the different native plants that thrive there. Guests will leave with knowledge and appreciation of the unique geologic formations and agricultural history of Hanapepe as well.
Come and Visit Hanapepe
Although small, a trip to quaint Hanapepe can bring about loads of excitement with events lovingly cultivated by locals and its awe-inspiring natural wonders. Whether it’s in finding an art piece from the island’s plantation days to getting over your jitters on the Swinging Bridge, you’re sure to have a story to bring back home. Come visit Hanapepe and experience this enchanting little town for yourself.